If your Facebook newsfeed is anything like mine, there are multiple posts a day about meditation – the general benefits, someone posting how much they love it or wish they could do it, etc. You may be wondering, how can anyone possibly sit for any length of time doing NOTHING – not even thinking. It sounds impossible…and honestly, why?
The why is easy, I think. Our brains are over-stimulated. Adding in smart phones and other devices adds to that over stimulation. It makes it nearly impossible for us to tap into our inner wisdom, our gut, and know what’s right. We wind up disconnected from ourselves. I know I did before I began a meditation practice. I was deeply unhappy and didn’t even realize it a lot of the time. I was stressed out nearly every minute of the day and sleep was a thing I could only imagine. Then, I decided to give meditation a try.
First Things First
The first thing to remember – it’s a PRACTICE. Meditation isn’t something to be mastered. Unlike tying your shoes where “practice makes perfect,” meditation is a lifelong practice. Not even the most spiritually enlightened are masters. So, take some of the pressure off yourself to get it “right” and trust that you’ll get better at it over time.
What is Silence
Next, it doesn’t have to be SILENT. You can use nature sounds, guided meditations or say a mantra in your head. What does need to be silent is all other distractions – email, Facebook, text messages and other notifications need to be turned off. When I first started my mediation practice, I found it helpful to count my breaths. In breaths were one and three, out breaths were two and four. The repetition and ease of counting this way made it easier to keep other thoughts from coming in and helped me sit still for the five minutes or so I started at.
And that’s the next thing to keep in mind. Don’t try to meditate for 20 minutes right off the bat. Start small. Three to five minutes is a great start for a beginner. To keep yourself from staring at the clock, set a timer, preferably one that isn’t jarring when it goes off. Even if you find your thoughts racing, sit with your eyes closed and PRACTICE until the timer goes off. As you feel comfortable, you can increase the time. I can tell you from my personal experience, this took about a week, but everyone is different so it may take you more or less time.
By now you might be wondering, “what about the thoughts?” I know the ones you mean. They seem to fly in and take over your brain. Your thoughts start running rampant about all the small (and big) things in your life. I call that the “monkey mind” because the thoughts are like monkeys swinging through your brain. The good news is, I learned to control the monkeys and so can you!
Here’s what I did. When the monkeys starting swinging through my brain, I said hi to them and asked them to please get in line to one side. I told them each that I’d address them when my meditation practice was complete. I know, it sounds silly to talk to my thoughts…but remember, meditation and other spiritual practices are about intention as much as anything, so talking to my thoughts was really setting the intention that my thoughts wouldn’t interfere and then acting on it. Give it a try! If that’s too weird for you, here’s another option: imagine those errant thoughts as leaves or feathers floating through your mind. As they float past, they form a pile. When you’re completed your meditation practice, you can choose to pick through the pile and deal with the thoughts or simply walk away from them. Up to you.
Get More Support
If you’d like a bit more support when you’re starting your meditation practice, go to the app store on your smart device and search for “meditation” or “guided meditation.” There are countless available, both free and paid. Each one is slightly different and geared towards different levels and goals, so read through the descriptions until you find one that really grabs you. There are also guided meditations available on YouTube or as .mp3 files/CDs on Amazon. Again, search until you find one that grabs you, the feels right. Try several until you find one or two you like.
As I mentioned, before I started meditating regularly I was deeply unhappy and incredibly stressed. I didn’t feel any sense of internal peace, but I kept trying to function like I was centered and balanced. It really didn’t go so well. I blew up at people for what seemed to them like no reason, but for me was a build-up of “stuff” under the surface. They just happened to be in the way when the top blew off in explosive fashion.
As you can imagine, this wasn’t great for relationships, my career or really anything I wanted to achieve. Thankfully, I found some really helpful people who became like family for a while. They helped guide me towards meditation and slowly my spiritual journey, my journey to inner peace began. Today, I feel a deep sense of peace most days and am able to recognize when it’s slipping and take measures to regain it. It didn’t happen overnight, but it’s been well worth it. In the process, I’ve discovered so much about myself. I believe a meditation practice will do the same for you. Just remember, it’s a PRACTICE. It’s not about perfection.